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Wembley’s podium is set for four clubs raised for the FA Cup

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard was less than two years old when his father Frank Snr won the FA Cup in 1980.

Manchester United’s assistant Michael Carrick spoke dreamily to his brother about what it would be like to play at Wembley, and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola confessed on Friday that he watched the final on TV in Spain every year.

So this weekend the FA Cup is in safe, appreciative hands.

The Covid-19 crisis has failed to de-rail the FA Cup, but will take place behind closed doors

The Covid-19 crisis has failed to de-rail the FA Cup, but will take place behind closed doors

It feels weird. How come Wembley’s booths are empty when City face Arsenal on Saturday night and United and Chelsea meet on Sunday night?

But at least it is on. We have at least a final and a winner within two weeks. That feels important in these uncertain times.

The last world event to get in the way of an FA Cup competition was World War II. The Covid-19 pandemic has failed and luckily our semi-finalists are clubs that still take the FA Cup seriously.

“My memories of English football look at the FA Cup final, not the Premier League or Champions League,” said Guardiola. ‘In Spain we saw the English final, the tradition, everything so beautiful.

“The Spanish Cup is interesting, but here hundreds of small teams start in this competition. That’s what makes it special.

“In this country, tradition is part of culture and the tradition of the FA Cup is great. We can’t play with our fans, so it’s not perfect, but it’s good enough. We are so excited to start playing the game. ‘

Pep Guardiola confessed on Friday that he has seen the FA Cup final on TV in Spain every year

Pep Guardiola confessed on Friday that he has seen the FA Cup final on TV in Spain every year

Pep Guardiola confessed on Friday that he has seen the FA Cup final on TV in Spain every year

The FA Cup has undoubtedly been damaged by football changes. The Premier League and the financial rewards of European football have diverted the attention of teams. Semi-finals in Wembley and shifting start times have not helped.

The record number of TV viewers for a final is the 28.5 million that saw Leeds v Chelsea repeat in 1970. Last year saw 7.5 million Guardiola’s City dismantle Watford. Even in the 1990s you could still regularly add 5 meters to that figure.

This decrease is therefore a concern. Speaking for their quarterfinals defeat to City, Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles emphasized how much he wanted to win the cup, but admitted he was too young to understand what the competition used to mean.

If the current generation, grown up on a diet of bigger, more glamorous matches, wants to tune in, it will take more coaches like Guardiola, Lampard and Carrick to lead.

In his autobiography, Carrick proposed that the FA Cup “make heroes” of players and spoke about the physical tension of lifting the trophy after United defeated Crystal Palace four years ago.

Michael Carrick says the FA Cup “makes heroes” of players and spoke about the thrill of lifting it

“It was a great moment of life,” said Carrick. “When I was little, the FA Cup final was the biggest day of the year. Memories come back from being five and watching Keith Houchen’s dive head for Coventry in 1987. My dad used to tell me about Ronnie Radford.

‘The Cup appealed to my imagination at a young age. So no, I don’t buy the argument that the FA Cup has lost its shine. I know the Champions League is so big, but players still love the FA Cup. ‘

After a while people wonder whether the latter statement is true. Do Premier League players from Africa and South America really have a place in their hearts for this stuffy competition when there is much to cherish in their own football culture and heritage?

At least Guardiola seems to think so. So too Carrick.

“I always liked talking to United’s foreign guys, they all knew it,” he said. “The cup is famous all over the world.”

This weekend’s four managers have their own history with the competition. Together they won it nine times.

Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta was the captain when Arsene Wenger’s team won it in 2014, saying, ‘It’s still important. Many clubs used this competition to give young players opportunities or change teams. But look at the semifinals this year. See how much everyone wants to win.

The FA Cup has undoubtedly been damaged by the wealth of the Premier League and Europe

The FA Cup has undoubtedly been damaged by the wealth of the Premier League and Europe

The FA Cup has undoubtedly been damaged by the wealth of the Premier League and Europe

Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta was the club's captain when Arsene Wenger's team won it in 2014

Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta was the club's captain when Arsene Wenger's team won it in 2014

Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta was the club’s captain when Arsene Wenger’s team won it in 2014

“The big clubs know how difficult it is to win the Premier League and the Champions League. So they need this title and they throw everything to this game. ‘

Again, it is possible to question the position. Analysis of the teams that participated in the early rounds of the FA Cup will tell you everything you need to know about how survival in the top division long ago replaced the desire for Cup glory. Still, these four have an FA Cup tradition.

One of the most welcome parts of Guardiola’s four years with City was his instinct to take both domestic cups seriously.

An FA Cup win would not be a bad way for Lampard to end his first season as Chelsea manager. “It would be a great feeling,” said Lampard. “I was lucky to win it and I grew up with it and those wins for my dad in 1975 and 1980 (with West Ham).

“I have a strong sense of what the FA Cup is all about and that has never changed for me. I’ll be very proud on Sunday. ‘

It was not long ago that the conversation about resuming the current season seemed overly optimistic.

That we have already reached this stage sometimes still feels like a miracle.

It’s time to cherish the semifinal weekend, no matter how it feels and looks.

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